Lauren K. Stokes, "Fear of the Family: Guest Workers and Family Migration in the Federal Republic of Germany" (Oxford UP, 2022)

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Beginning in 1955, West Germany recruited millions of people as guest workers from Yugoslavia, Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal, and especially Turkey. This labor force was essential to creating the postwar German economic miracle. Employers fantasized that foreign "guest workers" would provide labor power in their prime productive years without having to pay for their education, pensions, or medical care. They especially hoped that the workers would leave behind their spouses and children and not encumber the German state or society with the cost of caring for them.

As Lauren Stokes argues in Fear of the Family: Guest Workers and Family Migration in the Federal Republic of Germany (Oxford UP, 2022), the Federal Republic of Germany turned fear of this foreign family into the basis of policymaking, while at the same time implementing policies that inflicted fear in foreign families. Workers did not always prove willing to live their work lives in the FRG and their family lives elsewhere. They consistently challenged the state's assumption that "family" and "labor" could be cleanly divided, defied restrictive and discriminatory policies, staged political protests, and took their deportation orders to court. In 1973, the federal court legally recognized the constitutional right to family reunification, but almost immediately after the decision, the migration bureaucracy sought to limit that right in practice. Officials derided family migrants as a group of burdensome dependents seeking to defraud the welfare state and demonized them as a dangerous source of foreign values on German soil.

Paul Lerner is Professor of History at the University of Southern California where he directs the Max Kade Institute for Austrian-German-Swiss Studies. He can be reached at plerner@usc.edu and @PFLerner.

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